"New Testament Principles Of Caring For The Needy"
Brother Gus Nichols, of Jasper, Alabama delivered a lecture at David Lipscomb College, April 24, 1957, on the above subject, and it was put in tract form by the Gospel Advocate. Therefore it is endorsed by the college and the Advocate. I have heard Brother David Lipscomb say many times that to misrepresent any one's religious teaching was about as low as a man could go. I was brought up under that teaching and I have had a few debates, with such men as Mitchel, Tingley, and Walker; but I have never yet been accused of misrepresenting my opponent's position.
In reviewing the above tract, I will confine my arguments to what I believe the New Testament teaches on "Caring For The Needy." And I will ask Brother Nichols some questions as I go along. The truth is all that any honest person wants to know.
Brother Nichols, when you quoted all the Old Testament says about the poor did you mean to imply that you knew brethren who do not believe those scriptures? Of course you want to keep in mind where you delivered the speech, and the purpose of the speech.
You say: "Paul gives the church at Rome instructions concerning 'distributing to the necessity of saints' (Rom. 12:13)." Yes, Paul says, in Romans 12:13 "Communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality." Now, Brother Nichols, do you think that Paul was giving the church at Rome orders or permission to build, or to organize an institution, separate and apart from the church, controlled by trustees appointed by the organization itself, from all over the country, such as "Child-haven" at Cullman, Alabama, to "distribute to the necessities of the saints?" If the passage does not teach that, what was your purpose in quoting it? Do you think "Childhaven," an institution over which the elders of no congregation have any voice in the management of its affairs, is the "New Testament Principles of Caring For The Needy?"
In 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter says: "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away." In Acts 20:28, Paul says to the elders of the church at Ephesus: "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood."
Now Brother Nichols, don't the above scriptures absolutely limit the rule and authority of elders to the flock among them? And isit not the imperative duty of every church to care for its needy, to the extent of its ability? And is it not the duty of other churches to help a church that has more needy than it can care for? And is it not the duty of individuals and churches, that are contributing to a church to help care for its needy, to send their contributions to the elders of the church that they are helping? Is not that the way that churches and individual Christians did in New Testament times? Would you call that "New Testament Principles of Caring For The Needy?" Would you say that preachers who believe and teach the above do not believe in caring for orphans? And would you consider a man who believes and teaches that every congregation should care for the needy among them to be a hobby rider?
If a man should die and leave a widow and three children, and if she called you and told you she did not have a known living relative, and she did not know what to do, would you advise her to send her children to Child-haven, or would you call, or see the elders and tell them that the needs of the widow and children were their responsibility? Of course, I mean if they were members of the Jasper congregation. In other words, what do you think would be the "New Testament Principles of Caring For The Needy" in a case like that? Some may think that this IS just a hypothetical question based on a sum position; but you remember at Freed-Hardeman College a few years ago, you said this happened to you; but you never explained what disposition you made of the case. You related the case to show the great need of an orphan home or Childhaven.
At the time the widow called you the children had lost their father, but had not lost their home, and if the elders of the church had known about it, and had done their duty, they would not have lost them home. The elders would have assured the mother that they would provide a home, and support her and the children as long as the emergency existed. I know that would have been the New Testament teaching on the subject. And I know her home would not have been an orphan home as Child-haven is.
About three years ago an aged widow whose husband had been dead for several years and she had no children, was a member of the Ensley congregation. She had arthritis, and spent all she had a couple of thousand dollars — for medicine and doctor bills. She then fell and broke her leg. The Ensley elders paid her hospital bill for several weeks, which was around $90.00 a week. She stayed in the hospital till the doctors said her bones would not knit together. She was then carried to a rest home — at a cost of $150.00 a month — where she had every care, and where the members could visit her when ever they wanted to. She stayed there till she passed away.
Last Spring another widow fell at the church and broke her hip. She has a home but lives by herself. So the elders paid a woman $35.00 a week to stay with her till she could get about in the house and care for herself. Now, Brother Nichols, would you say that was "New Testament Principles of Caring for The Needy," or would you say that the preacher who labors with the church, and the elders are hobby riders, and disturbers of the peace among the churches because they did not send those widows off to an old folks' home? And the last widow's "little home was not deeded over to the elders — the church." She still has her home to live in, and go and come when she pleases.
All the Old Testament scriptures you quote, and many of the New Testament scriptures you quote or refer to have about as much bearing on "New Testament Principles of Caring for the Needy" as 2 Peter 2:16. We have another sister 96 years old, who has been an invalid tor many years. Her daughter who has a son over thirty years old, that cannot walk a step, lives with and takes care of her mother and her invalid son. They own a home. We covered their home and papered the rooms, got her a gas stove, a refrigerator, and had hot water put in their house. We did not have them "deed their home over to the elders — the church," neither do we try to tell the daughter how to run their home. We simply did for them what they could not do for themselves. Would you say that was "New Testament Principles of Caring for the Needy?" Or would you say it was the work of hobby riders trying to "bust' the churches?
On page 10 of your tract, you say: "Neither is the church restricted to the saints in its ministration. Paul speaks of the liberal 'distribution' of the church at Corinth unto them (saints in Judea,) and unto all men." (2 Cor. 9:13) The King James version puts "men" after "all," but it is in italics which shows it was an interpolation. Neither the Revised version, nor the Living Oracles, uses the word "men" in 2 Cor. 9:13. Brother David Lipscomb says in his commentary, "and their beneficence to all men, for their liberality shows that they excluded no Christian from their fellowship." Brother Lipscomb was evidently commenting on 2 Cor. 9:13 in light of Paul's charge to the church at Corinth in 1 Cor. 16:1,2: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come."
Brother Nichols, if 2 Cor. 9:13 teaches what you try to make it teach, does 1 Cor. 16:1, 2 teach that our contributing on the first day of the week should be for saint and sinner alike? When Paul gave that charge, should he not have said: "Now concerning the collection for the saints" and for "all men?" Is not that why you try to prove when you say: "Our Saviour performed his miracles for the benefit of the people in general, and not for his disciples only?"
Then you say: "It is a contradiction of facts to say we con preach to a sinner, and benefit his soul; but cannot do anything for his body, as a church. Some seem to think the church would have to say to a starving and sick man, "We can help your soul, but not your body. If you will first obey the gospel, then we can give you food and medicine to get you well, but not now.' "
Frankly, Brother Nichols, I cannot understand how a Christian gentleman would allow his mind to concoct such diabolical, and stupid accusation as the above, and tell an intelligent audience that that represents those who oppose such institutions as "Childhaven." If the faculty and trustees a David Lipscomb who had you to make the lecture, and the editor of the Gospel Advocate who published it, did not know that that part of your speech was beneath the dignity of a ward politician, I would not care to listen to their idea of common decency. I do not believe that there is a fool, dead or living, who ever believed and taught such tomfoolery as you ascribe to a large segment of your brethren. Any sincere Christian would minister to such a sinner according to Gal. 6:10 without thinking, much less implying, that the sinner could not be helped by God's people in any way till he obeyed the gospel. If I ever make such charges against my brethren, and puts it in quotation marks, I will know that I have gone about as low as any serpent that ever wriggled his belly in the dust of the earth, and may God deliver me from such depth of infamy.
Again you say: "Yes, the Bible says we are to do good to all men, and not only to the household of faith." Now, Brother Nichols, does that mean that the church is to build orphan homes, and old folk's homes for all faiths, and of no faith at all? If it does, then are not the brethren who are running the old ladies' home in Nashville violating that scriptural injunction? If it does not teach that, and it doesn't, then why quote it? And then say: "The good Samaritan helped a man who was not of his own faith and religion, and followed the Golden Rule." Is the example of the good Samaritan, an example for the.. New Testament churches to build orphan homes and old folk's home for people of all faiths, and of no religion at all? If not, what did you expect your audience to get out of it? Were you not trying to prove that orphan homes like Childhaven, organized and controlled by self appointed trustees from all over the country are the "New Testament Principles of Caring for the Needy?" If you were not trying to prove that, what was your argument for?
Again you say on page 10: "Some are now contending that orphan homes must be under the elders, or the church cannot contribute to them." Yes, Brother Nichols, the Firm Foundation is teaching that. of course you were too timid to mention that paper. It is too bad, therefore, that the two great papers among us, the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation cannot agree on how "our" orphan homes should be run. Which one of these papers would you say is the hobby rider and church buster? The President of David Lipscomb College says there is "no pattern" for caring for orphans. If he is right, then both papers must be wrong in contending for their particular kind of orphan homes, and that would make both papers "church busters," wouldn't it?
If these three great institutions among us — the Gospel Advocate, the Firm Foundation, and David Lipscomb College, cannot agree among themselves would you consider either one, or all of them, church "busters?" Such disagreement among these three institutions, keeps such men as G. K Wallace of Freed-Hardeman College, and Jack Meyer of the Homewood church here in Birmingham hopping around trying to find a twig to light on. For congregational instance, Jack Meyer held a meeting for the Fultondale congregation last year, and one day he preached on benevolence. He said the difference between a missionary society and an orphan home was that the society was controlled by men selected from all over the country and an orphan home was under the control of elders of the church. I told him after the sermon was over that he had made Childhaven a missionary society, and he said, "Well, I had rather it was under the control of elders!'
In 1952, writing on the same subject, he said: "But if Homewood church, or I as an individual, should send money to a home governed by a board of directors, scattered over the country, we would not be sending money to the elders of the church, but to an organization separate and apart from the oversight of any eldership, just as if we sent to the United Christian Missionary Society." Of course he was here putting Childhaven, Boles home, and Tennessee orphan homes in the same category with the "United Christian Missionary Society." He now has the Homewood church sending $25.00 per month to Childhaven, and he is trying to consign all who teach as he once did when he was teaching the truth to religious oblivion. Brother Nichols, would you say, when he was teaching the above, that he was a "hobby rider and a church buster?"Jack is not the Jack he once was. He is a big plan with a peanut disposition, inflated out of all proportion by his own ego.
Now back to brethren Lemmons, Goodpasture, and Pullias. Brother Nichols, since the differences between these brethren, on how an orphan home should be run, are absolutely irreconcilable, do you think there is a danger of them bringing about a split in the church? For instance when Brother Roy Lanier, who had been a staff writer for the Advocate fifteen years, found out that he could not teach in the Advocate his views on the orphan home question, he left the Advocate and went with the Firm Foundation, whose editor holds the same views he holds. Brother Guy N. Woods, the Advocate's hatchet man, grabbed his hatchet and gave the Lemmons and the Lanier position two Samson whacks. But their position happened to be the position of the elders of the Lubbock, Texas church, and also the position of Brother Norvel Young, the son of Matt Young and Ruby Morrow, two of my old school mates and best friends in our halcyon days of youth. Therefore, since those first two strokes of the hatchet man, a deathly silence has brooded over the Advocate office on that position, which evidently stayed the division between those two papers, at least, for the time being. However, the hatchet man is still going over the country telling the brethren that the division is coming and the sooner the better. However, Brother Gayle Oler comes with his ipso dixit, and declares that the argument about the different methods of running "our" orphan homes is "Much Ado About Nothing." Therefore, the unity among "our" orphan home advocates is mirabile dictu — wonderful to relate.
Now as to your "preacher's home" argument, I hold no brief for the "preacher's home." Many years ago the elders of the Ensley church, where I have now been preaching for nearly thirty two years, suggested building me a home. I told them I did not want them to build me a home, that if they would pay me as much as the West End church, the first church that I established in Birmingham, paid their preacher, I would build my own home. They never did pay me as much as the West End preacher got; but I got me a home. I have never made any fight against the churches building preachers' homes, since they have forced the Methodist pastor system upon the preachers, that is, many of them think the preacher ought to move every three or four years. The preacher could hardly afford to build a home, and then have to move off and leave it in so few years.
You asked: "Can a church build a preacher's home and support the preacher, his wife and children, and not take the home over to run it?" You live in a preacher's home, and the church supports you, your wife and children, and I know of no one that would argue that the elders should take your home over and run it. From this fact you make a fallacious argument by saying, "for the same reason the church can contribute to Childhaven, and like homes, without taking them over and running them." Brother Nichols, I know, and I know that you know, the home, and the church are two God ordained institutions; but I do not know why you, or any one else, who knows anything about the New Testament, would argue that Childhaven, and other such orphan tomes, established by self appointed trustees from all over the country, and controlled by a superintendent appointed by the trustees, are institutions like the preacher's home, and if the church can contribute to one, it can contribute to the other. To argue that man can establish an institution on a par with a God ordained institution, from my way of thinking, is bordering on blatant infidelity.
After reading such nauseating arguments as you make in your tract, it is refreshing to turn back to the New Testament and see that it still teaches that every congregation is responsible to God for caring for its own needy, and if it has more needy than it is financially able to care for, as the Jerusalem church had, then it is the duty of individual Christians and churches to send relief to them, as they did in New Testament times. It is my prayer therefore, that brethren Goodpasture, Lemmons and Pullias will get back to teaching the churches their responsibility in caring for the needy among them, and not divide the church over the method of building and operating orphan homes.
The church is God's divine institution for carrying the gospel to the world and for caring for the needy among them. And if the church fails in either responsibility, it is no justification for organizing human institutions to substitute for the Divine.